One wrong move and thirty-four people’s lives will be on my hands.
The thought drills in the Priest Valen’s head, steadying his hand as he calls for the parents to calm their children. Thirty-four people were his charge after The Dragon ambushed their fort. He only needed to get them to the next town, which was five miles down the mountain. The small base held a much stronger army and would be able to keep them safe, but they just needed to make it.
Valen notices a child’s quivering lip and immediately used his magic to calm the little girl. The divine magic washes over her, and her lips steady, and her clutch on her toy resumes as usual. The mothers say silent prayers while soothing their young. Valen takes a small breath then steps out of the tiny crevice they were hiding in.
He concentrates hard and can’t sense any energy from The Dragon. He waves his hand, and the thirty-four people take his command and hurry down the mountain trail. Taking the rear guard, Valen follows the people’s hurried steps, all the while keeping a vigilant eye.
“We’re going to die. What’s the point?” one mother whimpers. Her cries are met with hostility as the other parents do their best to keep their children and no doubt themselves calm.
“Do as I command, and no harm will come to you. You have my word. Please have faith in a servant of the Holy Mother,” Valen states.
“What can one Priest do against a dragon? There was a whole militia in that camp, and it just killed them all!” The Mother shouts, tucking her hair back in place from the mess the winds made. Valen raises his hand in protest of her shouts.
“Madam, please calm yourself,” He says. Using his magic once more to wash calmness over the Mother. But it doesn’t work for her. Her choked breathing is too far past what his magic is capable of. “Madam, we only need to make it to the next town. There are people there who can fight off The Dragon. Please, take my word. I am frightened, same as you, but my faith that the Holy Mother will see us through keeps me moving forward. Look upon the face of the children,” Valen says, pointing at the little girl with her toy and the others. “Will we not give them the chance to see old age? Will we forfeit their chance of a happy life due to our own fears? I can not bear such labor on my heart. I must try will all my might to see them to safety, see all of you to safety.” The Mother is overcome by tears, but just nodes her head. Turning back to the trail, they now continue.
Valen continues to look out for any threats. He is sure that the Mother’s outburst caught The Dragon’s attention, but no sign of it yet. Keeping his wings tucked in close, Valen was careful to keep as low of a profile as he could. Luckily he was the only angel. All the others were Humans, Elves, and one family of Lycan. Valen felt for them the most. They were refugees of the War of the Fallen Guardians, and as soon as that’s over, they are fleeing their home again from dragons. The War of the Fallen had been hard on Valen as well, he had lost many to the raids of the Vampires and Lycans alike, but this war with the Dragons affected everyone the same.
It had turned Valen from the medic that he was into the priest that he was now. Taking up the vow of the Holy Mother, he finally joined in the cause to save more people, and he had only regretted that he had not done it sooner. The lives he’s saved as a priest could have been useful in the previous war. He still blames himself for all the people he lost. The Holy Mother and all the elders told him that he couldn’t blame himself for that, he could, and he did.
Valen snaps from this guilt and checks the area. Still no sight of The Dragon, but he did notice that the Mother and her child were noticeably closer to him. Her sorrow nearly masked by the tears formed from the brisk mountain winds, she turns away from the gust and places her head on Valen’s shoulder. Outreaching one of his wings, Valen shields her from the wind. Her whimpers softened now that she was protected from the wind and comforted by Valen’s presence.
Knowing that he was able to provide this kind of feeling in others lifted Valen’s spirit. The child, not wanting to be left out, reached for Valen’s hand. With a smile, he took the little Elf girl’s hand and walked along with her. Fear was far from the little girl as she swung Valen’s hand as they walk along. She wasn’t the only one feeling better about the air of the situation. They could now see the first glimpse of the fort in the distance.
Smiles were now contagious, spreading to all in their party, their steps quicken, and their spirits heightened. In their haste, the Elf girl is bumped, causing her to stumble. She drops her toy, and it falls off the cliff. She goes to follow it and slips. Valen spreads his wings to fall behind her and catch her, only to see the mouth of The Dragon open wide.
Scooping the girl in his arms as quick as he can, Valen creates a barrier around himself and the little girl. The Dragon’s powerful jaws attempt to break through but to no avail. Valen fires a bolt of energy in the mouth of the Dragon and makes his escape. As The Dragon reels back, Valen makes his assent and warns the others.
“Run!” He screams. He glides near the edge of the cliff but makes a sharp turn when he sees the massive talon of The Dragon swipe up. He darts off into the distance, making The Dragon chase him. With the people running along a mountain path, Valen and the little girl were the only ones accessible to The Dragon. The little girl begins to cry once more. Valen tries fruitlessly to comfort her as he weaves and dodges through the mountain.
The Dragon proves to have more speed than he does, he can’t just take a straight path, but his smaller body helps him change directions much quicker. Feeling the sting of fatigue, Valen comes up with a plan. Flying close to a tree, he kicks off and heads to the peak of another mountain. With the Dragon opening his jaws, Valen goes into a fee fall. The Dragon tries to follow as best he can, and just as Valen predicted, The Dragon takes an immense inhale for a breath attack.
Calling the magic in him, Valen tosses a mirror spell behind him. The breath attack hits the spell and bounces back to The Dragon. The breath attack was one of water, and that was enough to blind The Dragon. As The Dragon shakes its head to clear its view, it doesn’t notice that Valen is gone and how close the ground is. It crashes hard into the peak of the mountain and roars in pain. Valen takes this time to catch up with the group.
The Mother screams with relief as Valen brings her child back unharmed, but they cannot rest. Valen rushes them down the path. The screeches and rants of The Dragon can be heard just above the trail. Some speak of resting here as the Dragon can not reach them.
“His water breath can drown us out, though. We are not safe here.” Valen informs. A man gives a cry of defeat as they continue to run. They make it to a fork in the path, and Valen motions to take the path that leads up.
“This way will see us to the camp faster,” One parent cries.
“Yes, but it also the one most expected. The Dragon will no doubt wait for us there.”
“I’m not going a long way and running away from the safety. You have lost it, Priest.”
“I assure you I have not. Please, heed my warning and follow me.”
“You are not the ruler of me or my family, Priest!” The parent yells. They then head down the shorter path. A few follow, and Valen tries to stop them. The Mother speaks up. “Priest, you are not responsible for their fates when they do not heed your words. Please, let us get to safety. I trust you.” The softness in her eyes shows her sincerity. With a heavy heart, Valen leads the remaining people to the higher path.
Twenty-four people now.
They make it to the high path, and Valen does another check. No Dragon nearby. Quickly signaling for the party to follow him, they head down the twisting path. It would be hard for The Dragon to get to them under the cover of trees even if he did find them here. He tried to warn the other group of that. Shaking it from his thoughts, he cast a spell of haste to give the group a little more speed. The only danger they faced from this path was sliding down the hill, and at this height, it wouldn’t hurt anyone too bad. It would, however, put them in reach of the base. Though it couldn’t be seen, it was just out side of these woods.
Valen and the others can see the streaks of light showing the end of the forest. It quickens our pace and widens our grins. Valen hurries to the front to take point and can hear their cries of relief. The rays of the sun are welcoming as Valen crosses the line out of the woods. He tells the others to call for help when they reach the fort. His heart is light as he watches them make it to the gates, but his heart takes a complete nose dive when he looks across the way.
The Dragon was prowling his way, mouth stained with blood. Valen grips his staff tight and yells for the others to hurry. They look back and notice The Dragon. They scream as The Dragon starts to charge for them. Valen cast another barrier and flies into The Dragon.
The tackle is enough to make The Dragon fall over on his side. Valen follows up by calling down divine light to burn The Dragon. The Dragon squeals and tries to get away from the beam. Valen only puts more of his might into the attack. The beam keeps The Dragon at bay, but it doesn’t do much damage. Once Valen confirms the last of the people have made it, he drops his attack and flies for the gates.
He doesn’t make it far before a rush of water knocks him out of the sky. The water is hot and burns him badly, but he tries to press on. He feels the ground beneath him give way to the power of The Dragon. He feels the talon of The Dragon pierce through him and turn him over on his back. There underneath The Dragon, he knows it is over. The Dragon looks down at Valen and says in very broken Angelic.
“You will pay for that.”
“Dragon!” someone yells.
Katin pulls his head up from his duties, and finds the voice. Passing his task on to the medic, he dashes to find the disturbance. Leaping into the air and taking flight, it doesn’t take him long to find the Dragon outside of the fort’s gates. Katin dives to The Dragon and punches him in the head to back him up. The Dragon roars and shakes off the attack, when he sees Katin with his glowing white eyes, he screeches.
Katin says nothing, he rushes in and backs The Dragon away from the priest’s body. The Dragon swipes at Katin, the attack lands, but Katin blocks it’s hit and returns a hard punch to The Dragon’s arm. The Dragon howls in pain as his limb hangs after the bone is broken. The Dragon turns and leaps to the air. Katin follows. With another Qi strike, Katin damages the wing of The Dragon, causing him to crash back into the ground. The Dragon scrambles and finds it hard to get up with the broken leg. The Dragon shoots off a couple of breath attacks, all miss as Katin’s connection to Qi allows him to predict movements. Katin overwhelms The Dragon with blow after blow, using his wings to get around most of the size difference.
“Let me go monk, I shall leave your people in peace!” The dragon says, with exhausted breath. Katin returns in Draconic.
“How dare you ask for mercy, while the blood of the innocent stain your lips.” Katin Places his foot on the throat of The Dragon.
“I know I went too far, those who killed my mother have paid the price. Please, let me live and I will right this. I swear by the Old Gods.”
“I would believe you, but you’re people believe you are doing the work of the Old Gods by controlling our population.”
“Not the Fallen Guardians. You are a Tagil of Demonic and Vampire blood yes?” Katin doesn’t answer, just applies more pressure. “We have no qualms with the Demons or the Vampires. Please, I beg of you.”
“Did you grant mercy to those who asked of it from you? What of the priest that lies not a mile away.” Katin says, his eyes burning with rage.
“Please, I will serve you. I can grant you power, riches…” with a quick Qi Strike, Katin breaks The Dragon’s neck.
Turning from the corpse of The Dragon, Katin can see the soldiers of the fort, now coming to his aid. When they realize that The Dragon is already dead, they look on at Katin in amazement.
“Daoshi Katin, did you… kill a dragon by yourself?” one soldier ask. Katin nodes and instructs them to harvest what materials they could from the body and he ran to tend to the priest.
The priest had perished, his body mortally injured, but there was a smile on his face. Katin used his Qi to see if he could connect with the spirit of the Priest.
“Thank you, brave Monk. I can rest knowing that I kept my word.” The spirit of the priest appears before Katin.
“Thank you, brave Priest. You protected them well. Priest, give me your name, so that all my know the sacrifice you have made.”
“If all we do is for fame and glory, then we rob our virtue,” The spirit of the priest returns. Katin smiles.
“If only you became a Monk. You live the values of the Tao. Of fame or integrity, you choose the later.”
“I never looked to others for fulfillment, that way I could be fulfilled. I never depended on money, so that I could be happy with myself. I was content with the way things are, because in realizing that there is nothing lacking…”
“Then the whole world belongs to you.” Katin finished. “You have read the text of the Tao.”
“Yes,” The spirit of the priest smiled. “I only wish the safety of those in my charge.”
“It shall be done. Go now, be at peace,” Kain say, using his Qi, he sends the Priest to the spirit realm.
Katin smiles and grabs a soldier, instructing him to prepare the Priest for a proper burial.
“So when you are out and about this weekend, remember the true reason we celebrate Saint Valen’s Day.” Mrs. Asanda Mbeki says, addressing her class.
“Mrs. Mbeki, if Saint Valen didn’t give Daoshi Katin his name, then how do we know any of that is true?” a student asks.
“Though Saint Valen wanted to remain anonymous, the survivors of the incident praised him for keeping them safe. They gave up his name and kept his story alive by passing it down through their families.” Mrs. Mbeki responds.
“But those people were in shock for running from The Dragon, their story can’t all be true.” Another student says.
“Well you’re Elvish Mrs. Mbeki, and you were alive during that time, were you one of those survivors?” one student asks. Before Mrs. Mbeki could answer, the bell rings and the loud shuffling of chairs begins. She shouts to them warnings of complete the assignment due when they return and they return the same as always. Not at all.
With the classroom empty, Mrs. Mbeki starts the process of locking up her classroom. She was sure that teaching high school students would be better in the clean up department, but she was wrong. Going through the rows, cleaning the notes and snack wrappers, was just as bad as her time in training at the middle school. After a quick pick up, sweeping, and closing the blinds. She gathers her things and locks up.
It’s always easier to traverse the halls after school hours on the weekend. Making her weekly trip to the the teachers lounge to gather her coffee supples, she lobs them in her purse and heads to the parking lot. She skillfully avoids any chatter with the teachers and their plans of get togethers for the weekend. She would not be subjected to their torture this weekend. Her and her husband would make their yearly trip to her families.
Out of site of the faculty, she breaths a little easier and reaches in her purse for her keys. Once the little confirmation of it’s unlocking goes, she hopes in and takes her usual sigh of relief for another school week done. After getting her things adjusted, she reaches in the glove compartment and pulls out a very old doll. One that has been with her for many years. One that had been with her through break ups, moves, college, but most importantly the one that was with her during the attack of the Dragon.
Every year during this time, the doll witnesses once more, the shedding of tears for her fallen hero. Saint Valen.